Advantages and Disadvantages of Shifting Cultivation

Advantages and Disadvantages of Shifting Cultivation

What is shifting cultivation?

Shifting cultivation is a method of agriculture where an area of land is cleared off its vegetation and cultivated for a period of time and then abandoned for its fertility to be naturally restored. Important to note is that this method is very different from crop rotation. This article will help you understand what are the advantages and disadvantages of shifting cultivation.

A land in shift farming is cleared and cultivated for a very short of time. It is then left and allowed to revert to its normal and natural vegetation as the cultivator moves to another field. The cultivation period is often terminated when the soil reveals any sign of exhaustion or when the plot is overrun by weeds. The length that the plot is cultivated is however shorter compared to the period in which the land is allowed to regenerate by lying free or fallow.

Shift farming has been often and highly practiced by indigenous communities for many centuries. It takes place and occurs in Amazon rainforest areas, West and Central Africa as well as Indonesia. Alongside other aspects of agriculture, slash and burn farming is under the threat of large scale forest clearance.

Advantages and disadvantages of shifting cultivation


  • It helps used land to get back all lost nutrients and as long as no damage occurs therefore, this form of agriculture is one of the most sustainable methods
  • The land can be easily recycled or regenerated thus; it receives seeds and nutrients from the nearing vegetation or environment
  • Shift farming saves a wide range of resources and provides nutrients because a small area is usually cleared and the burned vegetation offers many nutrients
  • It helps to ensure more productivity and sustainability of agriculture
  • In shift farming, it is easy to grow crops after the process of slash and burn. This is why shifting agriculture is also popularly known as slash-and-burn  farming.
  • It is an environmentally friendly mode of farming as it is organic
  • Shift cultivation is a mode or form of weed control
  • It also plays a crucial role in pest control
  • Soil bone diseases is also reduced significantly through shifting mode of farming
  • It also reduces the rate of environmental degradation

Shifting cultivation is a one lands clearing mode of farming or a slash and burn strategy. It leaves only stump and large trees in the farming area after the standing vegetation has been cut down and burned. The ashes enrich soil. Cultivation on earth after clearing of the land is often accomplished by a hoe or not necessarily by plough.


Disadvantages of shifting cultivation

It can easily lead to deforestation because when soil fertility is exhausted, farmers move on and clear another small area of the forest

Shift farming can easily cause soil erosion and desertification

It destroys water sheds

Shift farming is uneconomical

It easily leads to loss of biodiversity

Water pollution in coastal areas easily occur because of raw sewage and oil residue

Shifting mode of farming restricts the intensity of land use

Therefore, shifting cultivation has been under a lot of attack based on the principle that it degrades soil fertility and general fertility of forestlands in tropical areas. Nonetheless, this mode of farming is highly an adaptation to tropical soil conditions in areas where continued and long term cultivation has been practiced on the same soil without advanced soil conservation methods and use of fertilizers. This is because it would be highly detrimental to the fertility of the land.

In such areas, it can be highly preferable to cultivate land for a shorter period of time and abandon it before the soil fully exhausts its nutrients. The most attractive feature is that these disadvantages can be managed through

  • Quality education to help the farmers understand the consequences of shift cultivation
  • Agro forestry which involves growing crops and trees at the same time thus enabling farmers to shelter canopy of trees hence, preventing soil erosion. crops also benefit from dead organic matter
  • Selective logging can also be practiced
  • Forest reserves by protecting certain areas from cultivation
  • Afforestation where cut trees are replaced to maintain the health of canopy and
  • Close monitoring by use of advanced technology as well as photography to check any activities that take place hence, ensuring sustainability


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